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Biking round France with bikes and trailers, route map

Follow the moving ball to see where we went.

We spent just over 2.5 months getting ourselves round France late in the northern summer on two Bike Fridays and two trailers, using camping grounds, youth hostels, the occasional friend – and trains and buses. This little account will tell you about the sorts of things you are likely to face biking round France yourself. Hope it’s helpful.

In total we biked a bit under 2000 kms. We did something between 40 to 60kms a day, depending on points of interest en route, and weather conditions. There were 2 stages to our route. In the first we went NE from Paris to Reims, Verdun, Metz, Nancy, through the Vosges to Strasbourg, south to scenic Colmar; we biked from there up Col de la Schlucht - a mountain pass in the Vosges. Then on to Troyes and back to Paris.

Our 2nd stage took us South west into the Loire Valley through Chartres, Orleans, Blois, Azay le Rideau, Chinon, Fontevraud (linked to - Richard Lionheart and Eleanor of Aquitaine) Saumur, Angers, Nantes, down to La Rochelle, Bordeaux, and into the beautiful Dordogne: Bergerac, Les Eyzies de Tayac, Sarlat, Domme, on by train to Carcassone and on to some great cycling round the Salt Lakes, Port la Nouvelle to Sete. Then onto Nimes, Avignon, Orange, then east by train to the Riviera and a week in Monaco (free digs!), where we cycled well up Mont Agel. North again through the Maritime Alpes by quaint local train via Entrevaux to Digne, then by bus through Grenoble to Geneva and the Cern Hadron Collider. We poked around a 1000 year old village, Gex, associated with  family history and into Switzerland to check another genealogical link in Morges. Then to Lyons, Dijon and back to Paris.

Because we live Downunder we planned our return route back through the USA simply because passage through the US doubled our luggage allowance and enabled us to get the bikes over free. Otherwise we would have been limited to an all-up weight of about 25kg each and high additional freight costs for the bikes. But we still had to travel light even by our light standards. Our tent, sleeping bags etc. were the lightest we could find while still being strong, waterproof and warm enough

Cycling round France with bikes and trailers
Ready to roll

As an alternative to panniers Bike Friday offers a sturdy Samsonite suitcase to double as packing crate for bike in transport, and trailer on arrival. The folded and partly dismantled bike fits tightly into the suitcase, with a shock absorber, along with a light strong axle, towbar and 9in (23cm) diameter trailer wheels which all connect like magic at destination. Two bolts in the axle fit through small holes in the underside of the case and are each tightened inside by a wingnut against a large washer. The axle fits snugly into the towbar which clips solidly into a little nipple welded into the bike frame by the hub of the back wheel. The wheels slide onto the ends of the axle and fasten with washers and clovis pins.

That lockable suitcase/trailer combo took us all round France in all weathers and never once leaked or caused problems. We also discovered how robust the packing system was when we happened to look out the window of our 747 to see one of the suitcases thrown from about a meter up onto its side by a handler onto the shipment trailer – in spite of highly visible “Fragile” stickers. We winced, imagining a broken case, or a broken bike at the end of the journey – but at Paris nothing was amiss, except one pinched brake cable that needed replacing. No problems with customs/security as far as Paris. We flew from New Zealand through Asia and Europe to Heathrow, then Paris. Our suitcases were locked and there were no problems on the outward leg.

We had problems in the US though, on the return leg, when security wanted to open one of the cases. We explained they were packed in a special way with strategically placed shock absorbers and that moving contents risked damaging the bikes in travel, and we had no time to repack. They ignored us then couldn't get stuff back in. The case was bulging and straining at the locks and straps when we had to run for our lives to catch the flight. We expected to unpack broken bikes back in NZ, but nothing was amiss. As I said these bikes are robust! Read More